Community notebook: Scary tales

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October 26, 2009
By: Amanda Kushner
Amanda Kushner
Mill District

Mill District Scary tales at Mill City Museum


On May 2, 1878, a flour dust explosion killed 18 people at the Washburn A Mill and destroyed the factory. “Minneapolis Horror: Tales from the Night Shift” takes participants on a tour of the Washburn to learn about the mill’s disasters and dangers, said David Stevens, a public program specialist at the museum. The 1878 fire was the first of three fires. It leveled the building and instantly killed 14, he said.

At the heart of the program are three performances by costumed actors, which participants will encounter along the way, he said. One of the costumed characters on the tour is Seth King Humphrey, the inventor of the manlift, who discusses why he sold it to flour millers. He also explains how one worker was killed in 1936 when he was dragged to the ground floor after his clothes became entangled. Other horrors include a man drowning in bran and another becoming dismembered by a train, he said.

Also from the ninth floor observation deck visitors can see the Ruin Courtyard and riverfront.

“It’s a history tour. It’s a chance to see our building and its dramatic spaces at night time, which gives a whole new character to the building,” Stevens said.

The name of the event, “Minneapolis Horror,” comes from a headline, describing the 1878 Mill explosion.

The tour is 75 minutes long and begins at
6:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26–28 at the Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St. Reservations are required. The event costs $10–$14.

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Elliot Park

Vikings kicking in cash for fundraising campaign

The Minnesota Vikings will match up to $15,000 donated to the Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc (EPNI).

Last year the Vikings donated $15,000 to match a challenge grant from The McKnight Foundation, and funds supported the Centennial Commons Initiative, she said. The initiative plans to revitalize Downtown East and Elliot Park and bring commercial and housing opportunities.

A letter from Viking’s owners Zygi and Mark Wilf states, “EPNI’s initiatives match up well with the Vikings’ vision for the Downtown East area of Minneapolis and our intent to be part of a broader economic development effort that will create jobs and tax base in this area.”

The challenge will continue until Dec. 1.

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Downtown West

Shubert, Walker receive grants

The Minnesota Shubert and the Walker Art Center are two of nine national organizations to receive Dance/USA’s Engaging Dance Audiences grant.

Both organizations received $162,568.

The Shubert worked with eight local dance companies — ARENA Dances, Black Label Movement, James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Ragamala Dance, Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater, Zenon Dance Company, and Zorongo Flamenco ­— to discuss what worked to engage audiences, and ideas that the organizations were yet to pursue, said Shubert Executive Director Colin Hamilton.

“At the heart of the concept is thinking of the producers of dance as part of the audience of dance, and how do we get companies more deeply engaged with one another,” he said.

“ … And then how do you start to radiate out from that a little more or once there is a deeper sense of awareness and engagement with each other are there ways to carry that out into a broader community?”

Ideas that will become a reality as a result of the grant include having artists perform an opening act that compliments the evening performance in a dynamic way, Hamilton said. Another idea is to use a docent model to provide a yearlong education program to people interested in learning about dance to fill a cultural void, he said.

“It is a process that generates or reverberates in a lot of ways, and if you had that cluster of intensely engaged people that they would carry that out, back to their communities,” Hamilton said.

The last idea in the grant is to create social networks online allowing the dance community to communicate and share information, allowing them to become more engaged in one another’s work.

The 18-month program will begin Jan. 1, 2010, and over the next three months the Shubert and eight organizations will refine their planning, he said.

The Walker Art Center intends to use multiple strategies to further develop the dance audience in Minnesota and to deepen the engagement with audiences who want to understand where modern dance came from and what is going on in dance, said the Walker’s Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither.

These strategies include making a bigger commitment to residencies and to bring arts to Minneapolis for weeks at a time, he said. During that period the artists can hold master classes, open rehearsals, salons, workshops, receptions and conversations to create a greater appreciation for contemporary dance as an art form, Bither said.

The Walker is focusing its attention to try and extend four residencies at the beginning of 2010.

Another strategy to improve engagement will include using technology. An example will include posting conversations with artists online and sending out messages known as art on call — short cell phone descriptions about the artists’ work.

A third strategy is using interdisciplinary practice to introduce people to dance who may be coming to the Walker for another art form. For example, in November 2011, a living installation will be performed in the gallery for five hours a day.

In addition to receiving the Engaging Dance Audiences grant, the Walker also received a $97,900 JazzNEXT grant, which only five organizations received nationwide. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation funds both grants, and the James Irvine Foundation also funds the EDA grant.

The JazzNext grant will allow the Walker to hire an audience development fellow for jazz and dance who has an appreciation for the arts and is tech saavy with social networking strategies. This person will help execute both grants.